Adam Sandler’s lucrative Netflix deal for original content from his Happy Madison productions has turned out a lot of mostly middling films for the streaming service, which continues with his latest starring effort Hubie Halloween. This is Sandler going back to his weird voiced characters like The Waterboy and Little Nicky, which is more irritating than funny. There is an odd laugh scattered about here and there as the bundle of celebrity cameos from Sandler movie alums to sometimes elicit a stray chuckle but most of the gags are weak. It is trying to be funny but the old magic isn’t there.
In the town of Salem, Halloween is a big deal. The personal, self-appointed protector of all things on Halloween is Hubie Dubouis (Sandler) who is working overtime to make sure that everyone stays on the straight and narrow. This has earned him the townsfolk’s scorn as kids derisively calls him a snitch and adults are actively ignoring his repeated complaints and advice. When a new neighbour moves in, Walter (Steve Buscemi), Hubie is openly suspicious as Walter freaks out at the full moon. Even more suspicious on Halloween night people start randomly disappearing all across town which Hubie points out to Sargent Downey (Kevin James) but the cop doesn’t believe him. Now Hubie asks his crush, Violet (Julie Bowen), to help him look out for the crazy maniac he is convinced will take everyone away into the dark.
Probably the best things about Hubie Halloween are great call backs to Sandler’s earlier, better, funnier films with another appearance by Ben Stiller as the mean orderly from Happy Gilmore and another appearance of a bully kid hollering “O’Doyle Rules!” which was in Billy Madison. It is kind of a bummer since both Gilmore and Madison are genuinely hilarious and having the characters pop up in a meandering effort like Hubie Halloween is a step down. Maybe someday there will be an Adam Sandler Cinematic Universe film with Chubs from Gilmore like Nick Fury in Marvel. Hopefully Netflix will throw enough money at Sandler for it to happen.
Hubie is one of the more dopey characters Sandler has played in a few years, and not in a good way. Hubie is probably the closest to The Waterboy but Hubie isn’t as endearingly daft as Bobby Boucher was. Once in a while, some of Sandler’s line deliveries as Hubie are funny and the way the entire town holds him in contempt is good for some laughs, like when a nice old lady immediately throws out a helpful pamphlet he delivers. Even though the townies are portrayed as bullies to Hubie they are actually right because Hubie is a legitimate buzzkill. He’s like a hall monitor for Halloween parties so it is kind of difficult to feel too much sympathy since his self-appointed job is to eliminate amusement on Halloween. There is the odd good slapstick bit like when Hubie has to constantly dodge various objects thrown at him all night. The recurring joke about Hubie having a canteen that works as a Swiss army knife of various gadgets is more befuddling (how exactly do the mechanics of it work?!) than funny.
The “horror” elements of Hubie Halloween are not even remotely scary. There are a few shots of a mysterious masked figure which directly recalls the original John Carpenter slasher classic Halloween, especially the point of view shots from inside the mask, however since Hubie Halloween isn’t frightening it seems like a pointless rip off. The storyline involving the new neighbour Walter has some good gags as Buscemi plays a guy who really bad at hiding he’s a werewolf. Also the resolution of the werewolf and masked figure storylines intertwine unexpectedly and the answer as to who is actually abducting people is surprisingly clever.
Bowen makes the most out of the odd couple pairing in the movie’s closing minutes but the movie throws in some side plots for her kids which is pointless filler. As the police officer who is sick of Hubie’s nonsense, James’ cop is actually relatable since he’s trying to ditch Hubie the whole time. The better antagonist is Ray Liotta as the overbearing jerk Mr. Landolfa who gets delight out of torturing Hubie. Mya Rudolph and Tim Meadows pop up as a couple that are caught up in the craziness and the best asides are when they are bickering about their relationship. Playing Hubie’s mother, June Squibb has a fun first scene with an inappropriate t-shirt but her best stuff comes at the end, and Michael Chiklis’ snarky priest gets to rip on Hubie a bit for laughs. The best cameo is when Shaquille O’Neal shows up unexpectedly to offer Hubie sage advice and it’s always fun to see Shaq in anything.
Hubie Halloween manages to dreg up a few laughs, mostly because the various cameo actors are putting in an effort. The best moments are recalling bits from better Sandler movies made decades ago, although overall the gags are just weak and Sandler’s Hubie ends up being genuinely irritating than likable which is an insurmountable problem. Once in a while Hubie getting hit in the head really hard is mildly funny. That’s about it.
Director: Steven Brill
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James and Julie Bowen